Thanksgiving, 2017

We have officially entered the “Holiday Season.” I started writing this post on Thanksgiving, which will be followed by Christmas and the start of the New Year. These are supposed to be joyous times. At this point, I have seen a lot of Thanksgivings come and go. For most of my life, it was easy to think of things for which I could truly feel grateful. This year, that’s not the case. Of course, there are things for which I am grateful, but my concerns about the state of our nation have put a damper on my gratitude. This is, . . . → Read More: Thanksgiving, 2017

Earthquakes

By now, you undoubtedly know about the devastating earthquake in Nepal. You may not have heard, however, about the earthquake in SW Michigan. Earthquakes come in all sizes, from the huge and deadly to the minor shake-ups. Michigan’s earthquake was a minor shake-up. When I was growing up in California, we had numerous minor quakes. Even though they always came as a surprise, we learned to recognize them for what they were. After I had grown up and left, California experienced at least two serious quakes with extensive damage and some deaths, one in northern California and one in southern . . . → Read More: Earthquakes

Evolution

“Evolution” refers to change occurring over time, typically in a positive direction. As Darwin envisioned it, species changed (gradually) over time to enhance their ability to survive. These days the word is commonly used for any change that seems to be for the better. Not everyone, of course, agrees on what’s “better.” When President Obama says that his views of gay marriage are evolving, he means that he is becoming more tolerant and accepting. Not everyone, including members of the Westboro Baptist Church, however, would agree that’s a change for the better.

One of my favorite writers, Steven Pinker, . . . → Read More: Evolution

The Reality of Beliefs

According to a top Saudi cleric, driving damages women’s ovaries. Does the fact (reality) that some people believe that make it true, if only for them? What—exactly—is the relationship between reality and what we believe? You may know people who believe that their beliefs accurately reflect reality. If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you know that one of my recurrent themes is the need for an evidence procedure that allows individuals to base their beliefs on reality to the degree that it’s possible.

It was, for example, perfectly logical for our ancient ancestors to believe that . . . → Read More: The Reality of Beliefs

Coping with Complexity

In a recent article, Spencer Critchley discussed the difficulties a number of “conservative” Republicans are having coping with the complexities of the modern world. The part of his essay that caught my attention is the following:

The truth, as usual, is complex. But complexity is what the right-wing historical revisionists don’t like. They prefer to reduce it to binary choices of right-wrong, good-evil. We see this on the extreme left, too, where some argue that because the founders did not extend full rights to slaves, women or Native-Americans, they were no better than any other white, male oppressors. For . . . → Read More: Coping with Complexity